U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has cited armed conflict in Syria and the Central African Republic as the two most serious crises facing United Nations agencies around the world today.
At a news conference Monday in New York, Mr. Ban demanded a cease-fire in Syria before peace talks between the government and opposition begin in Geneva next month. He described the situation in Syria as beyond imagination.
"2013 was the year in which the Syrian conflict deteriorated beyond all imagination. The people of Syria cannot afford another year, another month, even another day of brutality and destruction."
He said because of the gravity of the situation, the United Nations is making its largest ever appeal for a single crisis -- $6.5 billion. The money will help support nearly nine million Syrians uprooted by the conflict.
The U.N.'s World Food Program says it will also step up its aid next year, noting that almost half of Syria's population of 23 million is "food insecure."
Mr. Ban also told reporters Monday that he is "gravely concerned about the imminent danger of mass atrocities" in the Central African Republic.
France has deployed 1,600 troops to the C.A.R as part of a U.N.-authorized mission to stabilize the landlocked country, which has been ravaged by a cycle of revenge killings between Muslims and Christians.